The Women & LGBT Center empowers students to increase awareness and understanding of gender equity issues. The Women & LGBT Center gives voice for women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, with purpose to eliminate barriers, diminish prejudices, and create a supportive climate and space for all.
History of the Women & LGBT Center
The Human Resources Women's Center opened its doors in 1973 as one of the first university women's centers in the Southwest. During the seventies, the center evolved from a program in the office of the provost to a strong force within student affairs. In the early days, the President's Commission on the Status of Women was established as an oversight committee to examine issues of concern to female faculty, staff, and students. Through the years the commission has fought for benefits such as maternity leave, improved day care, and pay equity. The Women's Center provided a forum for the discussion of women's issues, housed volunteer services, advised the student YWCA, and lent specialized support to nontraditionally aged women returning to college.
The Women's Center blossomed during the eighties, expanding its reach into the university and Dallas communities. Staff initiated sexual assault education and extensive outreach in the residence halls. In 1983, director Lindley Doran expanded the services available at the Women's Center by offering counseling related to gender issues. Marginalized groups such as the gay and lesbian student organization began to utilize the center as a safe gathering space. Staff focused on student leadership training, as well as programming dealing with aging parents, women's health issues, finances for women, and cooking.
Change characterized the Women's Center during the nineties, as counseling services were centralized in the Counseling and Psychiatric Services Department at the Health Center and the Women's Symposium was incorporated into the Women's Center. In addition, a program coordinator position was created. Outreach to artists in the community allowed the Women's Center to begin hosting art exhibits, some of which addressed themes related to gender. Recognizing the need for enhanced connections between women on campus, the Center coordinated an annual reception for new female faculty. During this time, the gay, lesbian, and bisexual student organization was granted its charter through Student Senate. The Women's Center emphasized programming, student development, and community building.
The Food Chain began in 2001 with the goal of bringing women of color on campus together. During 2005 a Student Development Specialist position was created to be an advisor for the Women's Center student organizations, the position of Symposium Coordinator was eliminated and that duty was developed into the director's position.
In 2008, the words Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender were added to the centers mission statement and the center formally changed its name to Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives, with the goal of showing its long commitment to the LGBT Community. Also in 2008, the center moved from its house on Fondren Avenue to a new central location in the Hughes Trigg Student Center. The center began tracking different physical resources on campus by creating a gender neutral bathroom and lactation location map of campus. In 2014 the name changed, again, to represent fully its dual role to the Women and LGBT communities of SMU, with the name Women & LGBT Center.
For over forty years, the Women & LGBT Center has promoted increased understanding of broad social, political, and economic issues, fostering the individual development of diverse populations and implementing systemic change. Whether through the Violence Prevention Program or the LGBT Panel Program, outreach into Wellness classes, Leadership Trainings or informal conversations with students the Women & LGBT Center strives to empower the people it serves and to promote lasting change in the university and beyond.
Emmie V. Baine, Founder
Described by her colleagues as a woman of vision, Emmie V. Baine (1916-1999) never hesitated to challenge the status quo, first as the Dean of Women and then as University Coordinator for Women at Southern Methodist University. Encouraging young women to pursue leadership positions was not commonplace on college campuses when Dean Baine began her career at SMU. She created a new paradigm for the education of women, making their professional development a priority.
Emmie Baine, when once asked to comment on her extraordinary accomplishments, simply replied, "All I did from the beginning was to provide a place and a center for things to happen". And they did! In 1966, Dean Baine founded the Women's Symposium as part of the University's 50th anniversary celebration. Today the SMU Women's Symposium is recognized as the longest continuously running program of its kind in the nation and one of SMU's oldest and finest traditions.
The Women's Symposium is only one component of Dean Baine's legacy. In 1972, she wrote the initial grant proposal securing funding for the Women's and Gender Studies Program at SMU. The SMU Women's Center, founded by Baine in 1973, was the first in the southwest. The center is a place known for reflection, dialogue, collaboration, and in the tradition of Dean Baine, action. Another program initiative was the SMU President's Commission on the Status of Women, which continues to identify and address issues of importance to female faculty and staff.
Emmie Baine is remembered as an intelligent, compassionate, insightful woman who was a role model and mentor to hundreds of young women at SMU. Her legacy is not only the programs she established, but also the women she inspired to carry on her work.
In 2009 the center introduced The Emmie V. Baine Legacy Award which will be given each year at the Spring Award's Extravaganza to a student who has made outstanding contributions to gender equity on campus in honor of the legacy of our founder of the Women’s Center, Emmie V. Baine.
Recipients of the Emmie V. Baine Legacy Award
Jenny Torres 2016
Shelbi Smith 2015
Melissa Maguire 2014